In 1928 when Mae West created her character, Diamond Lil, for her self-penned stage play of the same name, the Mae West “character” that later we all came to know and love was finally born, albeit not quite fully grown in those early productions.  Lil was darker (quite clearly a prostitute) and less humorous in her first incarnation. The first production of Diamond Lil opened on 9 April 1928 at the Royale Theatre, New York, and ran for 176 performances.
The full blown Mae West character came later when cinema censorship required Mae to add more humour to the mix.  In “She Done Him Wrong” we see Mae and Lil in all her glory.   I use the singular because they were one.  As Mae is reported to have said of Lil “I'm her and she's me and we're each other”.  Whilst Mae didn't accept the quote (mainly because of the poor grammar) she did confirm in her autobiography that “from here on, Lil and I, in my various characterisations, climbed the ladder of success wrong by wrong”.
Theatre goers, therefore, had to wait for the post-Hollywood revivals to see Mae’s bountiful, beautiful and wise-cracking Lil in the flesh. She first revived it in September 1947 when she took it to the UK and toured it, ending in London in May 1948. You’ll find more information about the UK tour on the “Passport” page
The play  reopened at the Plymouth Theatre in September of that year and ran for a total of 182 performances. It then toured and made a return to Broadway in September 1951, this time at the Broadway Theatre, and it was there that Diamond Lil, the character, took her final curtain call.
Following the huge popular success enjoyed in the UK Mae then opened the play at the Coronet Theatre in New York on 15 February 1949. It was during this run that Mae fractured her ankle and the show had to close until she was fit enough to perform.  
By this time Mae West had so absorbed the Diamond Lil persona that she came to live it and the two eventually became indistinguishable in all aspects of her life.
photo courtesy of the Malachosky Collection
photo courtesy of the Malachosky Collection